Dharavi slums in Mumbai, India

Laundry in Mumbai, India

I recently spent two weeks in India. India is a land of extreme contrasts.  As extreme as any of the examples is the Dharavi slum which sits within spitting distance of world-class architecture.  As a business man marveling at Incredible India while sitting in an executive lounge, riding in the back seat of a car with a driver whisking me to appointments, eating at tables  set aside for dignitaries and even overseen by random strangers while touring the slum it is hard to understand India.  Being a visitor with handlers providing orthodox interpretations of the sights and sounds reinforces the fishbowl mentality and reduces the chances of deep understanding.

Software developers and other IT specialties can trap themselves into a fishbowl by latching onto a single set of ideas and then reinforcing those ideas by allowing gatekeepers of orthodoxy to constrain how they interpret what they read and hear. There are times within the IT community that ideas take on a life of their own.  For example, the 1990’s marked the high water mark for CMMI and the concepts that revolved around the model.  Adherents of the CMMI model became almost religious in their zeal to protect their boundaries, like the adherents of Object Orientation and Case.   Each new community created its own fishbowl to supplant the last. The fishbowl ensured that the next new “thing” went unnoticed by those in the fishbowl.

Many Agile adherents have begun to build fishbowls of rules around frameworks, like Scrum or Kanban, suggesting that only a single orthodoxy exists. They are abandoning the culture of improvement and experimentation that spawned the Agile movement.  To be truly small “a” agile, we must continuously look for ways to escape our fishbowl, to learn, to grow and to change.